“Every day I exercise self-control: I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.” The author of this and other witty lines looked like a cartoon character, with his hairy ball-shaped nose.
Behind the caricature aspect, however, WC Fields could be a sober commentator of his time. For Woody Allen, he was a comedy genius. The most famous drunk of old movies, he juggled before he burst onto the screen. He exchanged the art of balance for the tightrope of alcohol.
He was a poet, in his own way. “My greatest ambition as a gardener is to water the orange trees with gin, so it would be enough to squeeze the oranges into a glass”, which attracted the admiration of the surrealists. Max Ernst painted pictures inspired by his rotund figure, whose diet —Fields said— was limited to dry martini olives.
Another vaudeville pop star is Frank Fogarty, the Dublin Minstrel. At the beginning of Prohibition, around 1920, he created or inspired the last word cocktail. As a theatrical monologue, a hypnotist for audiences, Fogarty excelled in the cathartic effect of the final word, hence the name.
Like almost all drinks of the time, colorful combinations of liqueurs, bitters and kitchen spices, the last word was made to measure to disguise the poor quality of the base drink — in this case, the homemade gin, produced in metal bathtubs, where grain alcohol was mixed with water and juniper oil.
It was simpler than counterfeiting whiskey, hence the preference in the so-called crazy years. You can see James Cagney, Hollywood’s top gangster, making his fake gin in “The Roaring Twenties” to sell it to speakeasies, underground bars, where everything happens, including drinking (The Simpsons, of course, would also use bathtubs as stills, in an episode where alcohol is banned in Springfield).
Moralists were crusading against gin, the “mother’s ruin.” Al Capone, undaunted, replied, “When I sell drinks, it’s contraband. When they’re served on a silver platter, it’s hospitality.”
Since 2009, World Gin Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in June. This year, it falls on our Valentine’s Day. World Gin Day started in Birmingham, an industrial city in England, home to Black Sabbath and the Peaky Blinders, pre-punk gang of the BBC series.
Thomas Shelby (the handsome Cillian Murphy), head of the Gypsy family, identified by the blades sewn into his berets, expands his gambling business and moves into booze smuggling.
In one scene, he offers a glass of gin and sentences, in his firm, melancholy tone, “It’s the best thing to cure sadness.” Churchill, who also appears in the series and is a constant presence in this column, would go further: “Gin saved more English lives than all the doctors in the Empire.”
Sung by rappers and rockers, in part because of the irresistible rhyme with the English word without (sin), gin has gained supporters in Brazil, especially in the last decade. Following the wave of craft beers, many small producers began to distil the drink on farms in Minas and São Paulo. Amázzoni, Arapuru, IVY and Virga are some of the good national brands that are on the physical and virtual shelves.
The final word is for TSEliot. Asked where his inspiration came from, he said, “Gin and drugs, dear lady, gin and drugs.”
- 30 ml of gim
- 25 ml of Luxardo Maraschino
- 25 ml of Green Chartreuse
- 25 ml of lemon juice
Step by step
Beat ingredients with ice and strain into a cold coupe bowl. Finish with two maraschino cherries.
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